an exceptional personality who lived in the transitional period during which the Kushite domination of Egypt came to an end (twenty-fifth dynasty) and the Saite dynasty assumed power. His name and titles are found on fifteen statues, more or less well conserved and of very high quality. An admirable head of a statue, attributed to him with great probability, gives us his portrait (Cairo Museum no. 647); the powerful traits are those of an elderly man, with a face full of experience and gentlemanly guile. He took pride in his numerous titles: first and foremost “Prince of the City (Thebes)” and “Governor of Upper Egypt”; designated simply as “Fourth Prophet of Amun,” he in fact directed all of the Theban clergy. The interminable lists of his traditional titles hardly furnish precise facts that are “historical” in the modern sense of the term, but it is known that his direct power extended “from Elephantine in the South up to Hermopolis” in Middle Egypt, therefore including the Theban region and that of Abydos, where his name is attested.

Contrary to what is sometimes claimed, he was by no means of Kushite descent. He was the son of a prophet of Amun and Montu, named Nsiptah, and his mother's name was Istenkheb. His family, of which we have knowledge of five generations, had occupied very high positions in Egypt. Montuemhet and his relatives were Thebans who were allied to the Kushites. Politically adroit, Montuemhet came to very good terms with the Divine Adoratrices; these “wives of the god Amun” were princesses of the Kushite royal family. Active under Taharqa (r. 690–664 BCE), after the fall of Thebes he figures among the princes who received the investiture of Assarhadon the conquering Assyrian. He went on to support Psamtik I the Saite, who in 656 BCE imposed his own daughter Nitocris upon Thebes as Divine Adoratrice. He took part in an oracular ceremony in 651 BCE, but he disappears from inscriptions about 648 BCE. Three wives are known: Shepenmont, Neskhonsu—the mother of Nsiptah, who inherited his titles—and finally Oudjarenes, of the Kushite royal family, with whom he had a son named Pasherienmut. Montuemhet's glory is attested by his vast tomb at Thebes (tomb 34), a jewel of the Asasif, on the western bank of Thebes; currently in ruins, it is in the process of restoration, offering vestiges of wonderful reliefs.

Bibliography

  • Leclant, Jean. Montuemhet, quatrième prophète d'Amon, prince de la Ville. Bibliothèque d'étude, 35. Cairo, 1962.
  • Parker, Richard A. A Saïte Oracle Papyrus from Thebes in the Brooklyn Museum (Pap. Brooklyn 47.218.3). Providence, 1962.
  • Russman, Edna R. “Relief Decoration in the Tomb of Montuemhet.” Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 31 (1994), 1–19.
  • Russman, Edna R. “Montuemhet's Kushite Wife.” Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 34 (1997), 21–39.

Jean Leclant; Translated from French by Susan Romanosky